Douglas & McIntyre

Interviews with author(s) of “Empty Casing”

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Fred  Doucette

Fred Doucette

April 2008

Retired soldier, sufferer of Operational Stress Injury and now author, Fred Doucette speaks of the horrors of war and his new book, Empty Casing.

Tie-Dyed Brain Waves, Apr 8, 2008
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Fred  Doucette

Fred Doucette

January 2008

In a brief interview with Douglas & McIntyre, the former peacekeeper speaks candidly about the horrors of war and of Post-traumatic stress disorder.

What influenced you to join the army, and what is it like to be a soldier?

I grew up in a generation that saw wars in Europe and Korea. My Dad and several uncles served in the military, and they positively influenced my decision to join the army. Being an Infantryman is very rewarding, but also challenging, both physically and mentally. In the Infantry, you are in a family that has great links to the past – for example, the Royal Canadian Regiment, of which I am a part, dates back to 1883, and has been a part of all the conflicts that Canada has been involved with, since. Knowing that this proud history comes at a price instils in you a pride and promise not to let your Regiment down.

Why was Bosnia so different from other peacekeeping missions?

The United Nations’s mandate was not robust enough for us to do what we felt we were expected to do – we felt as if our hands were tied behind our backs, and in many cases, we were a prime target for the opposing forces. A fair number of soldiers returned home weighed-down with the guilt of not having done enough, and never really feeling as if they made a difference in Bosnia.

What was Sarajevo like in 1995?

The city and its inhabitants were in the third year of the siege, and life was really grim – it was survival, not living. The Serbian troops surrounding the city were determined to make the city fall that year and had increased their shelling and operations in and around the city. There was no safe place in Sarajevo – death could come anywhere, at any time, and it made no distinction between young and old, man or woman. The real suffering was by the women, children, and the elderly, who were caught up in the maelstrom of war.

What caused your PTSD, and what was your path to recovery?

To lessen the stigma associated with a mental health injury, the term Operational Stress Injury (OSI) is used to describe a mental health injury related to operations. An OSI can result from one incident, such as a shelling that kills a close friend, but in many cases it comes from a multitude of incidents that eventually combine and cause a soldier to crash. In my case, OSI resulted from several operations going as far back as my first UN tour in 1973. Between 1996 and 2000 my anger, depression, anxiety, flashbacks, dreams and other symptoms grew progressively worse. In 2000 I finally sought help from the military medical system and was diagnosed with severe chronic PTSD – I began treatment in the summer of 2000. It was hard work, like physiotherapy for the brain, but I stuck with the program and by 2002 I felt great. I have not looked back and I savour life – it feels great to be alive.

Douglas & McIntyre Marketing, Jan 5, 2008